South Korean director Lee Joon-ik's feature The King and the Clown has the double distinction of being the highest-grossing film in Korean history at the time of its release and one of the first Korean commercial films to deal openly and unabashedly with gay themes; it is regarded in many quarters as the Korean Brokeback Mountain.
Adapted from Kim Tae-Woong's play Yi, this period drama concerns two 16th century, Chosun Era clowns: the supremely self-assured Jang-seng (Kam Woo-seong) and transsexual Gong-gil (Lee Jun-gi), who earn a meager living as street performers in Hanyang.
Miraculously, their excruciating poverty comes to an end when the tyrannical King Yon-san (Jeong Jin-yeong) catches their act and, delighted, invites them to serve as resident court jesters at his palace. But matters grow increasingly complex and tricky when Yon-san feels a torrent of lust for Gong-gil and attempts to possess the androgynous performer.
This elicits unbridled jealousy from Jang-seng and not only sets him on a head-to-head collision course with the king, but threatens to propel Yon-san into full insanity.